Monday, July 2, 2007

Why "JPF Notes & Comment" Exists

Ever wonder why news reports about religion never seem to reflect your point of view?

Then take a look at Media Matters for America’s report, released in May, called Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media. (You can download a copy <here>.)

Left Behind’s basic findings are these:

• While 90% of Americans identify themselves as being religious, only 22% belong to religious groups identified as leading America’s right-wing “culture war” against abortion and gay rights.

• Yet, when Media Matters studied religious leaders quoted, mentioned or interviewed in major newspaper and television reports between November 3, 2004 and December 31, 2006, conservative religious personalities were cited 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious personalities.

• Television networks, cable news channels and Public Broadcasting quoted conservative religious figures 3.8 times as often as progressive religious figures.

• Major newspapers — those in the Nexis database’s “major newspapers” grouping — highlighted conservative religious spokespeople 2.7 times as often as progressive religious spokespeople.

Media Matters’ report concludes:

Despite the fact that most religious Americans are moderate or progressive, in the news media it is overwhelmingly conservative leaders who are presented as the voice of religion. This represents a particularly meaningful distortion since progressive religious leaders tend to focus on different issues and offer an entirely different perspective than their conservative counterparts.
Moreover, the reported noted:

... the distorted picture allows a vocal minority to exercise an outsized influence on the issues and politicians that shape the direction of the country. The second disservice is in the opportunity cost of neglecting to offer a more accurate picture of religiosity and its effects on political views: More than eight in 10 Americans, consistently across every religious tradition, agree that too many leaders use religion to talk about abortion and gay rights, but don't talk about more important things like loving your neighbor and caring for the poor.
Adam Simms

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Israel’s “Gitmo Lite”

US Federal courts in recent weeks have finally gotten around to chipping away at President Bush’s most brazen assault on the Constitution: the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center, where several hundred “enemy combatants” have remained in legal limbo for five years.

The shame about “Gitmo” is not unique to the US, however, as a recent posting by Yesh Gvul, the Israeli support organization for conscientious objectors, demonstrates.

The organization posts on its Web site a monthly “Page of Shame” devoted to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. June’s page focuses on the Israeli justice system in the territories and its dealings with Palestinians accused of terrorist activities.

Hava Halevi writes of the system:

Very seldom does a genuine trial take place, with witnesses and evidence. Most cases are closed in a plea bargain. A lawyer representing Palestinian prisoners explains: “Of course I can run a trial with evidence, demand that witnesses be brought for counter-examination and so forth; but this will take 2-3 years [during which the defendant remains in prison]. It's better to close a plea bargain. The inmate will sit an extra half-year to a year, and will return home. Even the families press to close a deal as soon as possible.”

In a posting on the Daily Kos Web site regarding the Yesh Gvul report here> , a writer identified as Assaf adds:

“The Occupation ‘justice’ system is interlinked with Israel's ‘legit’ justice system in many ways. For example, the IDF's attorney general during the critical First Intifada years, is currently an Israel Supreme Court justice. Appeals against Occupation policies or military-court decisions can be heard in our Supreme Court. A few liberal decisions, or more often, liberal parts of non-liberal decisions on such appeals, have created the image that our Supreme Court is an excellent check and balance on the Occupation. In fact, the bulk of Supreme Court decisions have upheld the Occupation. Even more disturbingly, when cases against Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians or their property come before Israel's civilian courts, the outcomes are extremely lenient … ”

So much for the principle of “Tzedek tzedek” — do justice justly — at Gitmo and on the West Bank.

David Gradis

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